The Value of Seeing Ourselves in Pictures

Written by Behrman House Staff, 17 of October, 2017
Show Us How YOU are Jewish

Behrman House Art Director and Editor Ann D. Koffsky recently wrote a blog in the Times of Israel about how images communicate ideas and why pictures matter. 

"Photos have the immense and unique power to communicate positive ideas across divides in ways that are not always possible through words," she writes. "They can connect us to our history. To experiences around the world. They can reach into us, draw out our empathy, and allow us to feel common cause and connection with a stranger. They imprint on our memories in ways words do not." 

"[Artists] know how to play with image to communicate. So too, erasing or excluding pictures has ALWAYS been a symbol for: I don’t like you. Pharaohs who came to power would immediately remove the images of the previous pharaoh."

She was motivated to write the piece because of policies at an increasing number of publications geared to Orthodox Jews that refuse to print images of women and girls out of a stated attempt to preserve respect for women’s rights for privacy and modesty. This issue has upset many people in the Orthodox community, who are talking about it online. 

Ann's commitment to the power of the image is perfectly aligned with Behrman House's commitment to:

Gender-neutral language - For example, we don't refer to God with the pronoun "he." 

Showing men and women equally - We strive to maintain a balance in the number of images of each. We also assiduously avoid making assumptions about gender roles, for example, in materials about rituals that depict Shabbat candle lighting and saying the Kiddush.  

Diversity in Judaism - The Jewish community includes diversity of all kinds -- geography, opinion, religious practice, ability, family makeup, race, and more. All of these differences make the community stronger, more exciting, and more creative.  We recognize how important it is for Jewish children and families to see images of this diversity - themselves - reflected in print materials, especially as they are creating and building their personal Jewish identities.

See an example of this commitment when Behrman House's children's imprint, Apples & Honey Press, releases We Are Jewish Faces, by Debra Darvick, in February. Now available for pre-order